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books inc sign
"The West's Oldest Independent Bookseller"

BOOKS INC - Berkeley

1491 Shattuck Ave. (moved from 1760 Fourth Street, June 2015)
Berkeley CA 94704
(510) 525-7777
(June 2015 review)

overall feel & design (updated for the new location, June 11, 2015)
This branch of Books Inc. is a space with a very new (we first visited it a couple of days after it opened) with good lighting and a lot more open space that their previous space on Fourth Street. The old space got smaller and smaller every time we visited, with more spinner racks, endcaps, and all the fixtures moving closer and closer together.

Their section signing is quite clear and easy to read. The space is well lighted and seems so very clean and tidy. I'm wondering, Can a bookstore be too clean and tidy? They do make an attempt at some funkiness, with some odds and ends of strange items on display at the tops of the taller bookcases, but that seems the only break from a plastic-laminate-based bookstore chain. They are my favorite book chain still standing, but they still seem too calculating and corporate, but, hey, they have some great books, and they don't come close to reminding anyone of a Crown Books.

                                       books inc 


The staff at the Fourth Street store did a pretty good job of welcoming people, knowing what they're doing, and were excellent at keeping the store clean and straightened. We have been to this store many times and while the staff is friendly, yet, they don't seem interested in getting to know the customers much. It could just be my prejudice, but small chain bookstores seem to shift over to a more distant customer service feel quickly and staffmembers don't seem as personable with their customers as in a owner-on-site independent bookstore. It could just be the particular personalities of the people working, or hiring in this branch, or the home office management pushing for their latest improvement in operations, but I haven't encountered anyone being very outgoing, or seeming to remember their frequent customers. Pleasant, yes. Overly human, no.

the selection
I always enjoy a bookstore that has tables and displays of the newest hardcover, paperback, fiction, nonfiction books in the front of the store, and the Berkeley store does this very nicely. With the new larger space, I expect to see more stock in the store.

The fiction sections seem to be laid out quite sensibly, and there is a nice flow to the space. I'm fond of their fiction, biography, history, poetry, and remaindered fiction sections. There are a large number of sale and remainder books for both adult and children available. In season, their calendar selection is pretty large and their magazine and newspaper selection is rather large, nicely varied, and most interesting.

The selection of odd, funny, and down-right silly nonbook items seems to grow each time we visit the store.  Beyond the magazines, newspapers, blank books, CDs, greeting cards, reading glasses, there is a large group of humorous and pure gag gifts. Who doesn't want ice cubes in all kinds of odd shapes, bizarre bottle stoppers, funny smartphone accessories, moustache-shaped magnets, and much more?

When we managed read. booksellers in Danville, we were pushed to have all manner of inexpensive merchandise, so that every browser could find something, however silly and/or cheap, to purchase. At read. we had a large table, then two tables, filled with this inexpensive material—we called it the cheap crap table. Now cheap crap has it's place in the retail world, but it sometimes seems to be taking up any spare bit of display space at Books. Inc.
Books Inc. is a locally owned and operated independent bookseller with 11 locations (as of this review) in California. The beginnings of the chain date back to the Gold Rush Days of 1851 when Anton Roman struck it rich in Shasta City, and set himself up selling books. Lew Lengfeld, owner since 1946, passed away in 1996 and left Books Inc. to a few trusted employees. This was just as the national chain stores were arriving on the West Coast, and that eventually lead to the closure of ten of the twelve Books Inc. stores and a filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in an attempt to restructure and save the company. The company emerged from Chapter 11 in 1997 with 4 stores and added a 5th in 1998. All integral systems had been revamped and computerized, from buying to accounting. Today, Books. Inc. has 11 stores (with another opening in Santa Clara, in July 2016) and around 200 employees

(history courtesy of their website)

The very first thing I noticed about the store's interior was the new hardcover books (both fiction & nonfiction) displayed on the front of the central cashwrap area. There are also some cleverly-designed fixtures and displays in the bookstore. The staff keeps everything well straightened and in order, so sight lines and displays always look just fine. The kid's section has grown quite a bit, with the young adult books getting a lot more space. The magazine area has also gained more floor space, but the additional titles haven't arrived yet to fill the fixtures. Having ordered and handled magazines in several bookstore (my own bookstores and other people's) I know that there is a long lead time for changing title selections with all the different weekly, monthly, quarterly, and whatever time periods involved.

store events
Chain-wide, Books Inc. has a large selection of book signings and events, and the Fourth Street store has always gotten quite a few choice authors to appear there. I'm betting that author events my even increase at the new space, which also offers quite a bit more room for even more chairs for their events.  

website www.booksinc.net/berkeley
The website is well-designed and very expansive, drop-down menus abound. It serves the entire chain, and is very active. Events are well covered for all sites, and Books Inc. has a huge array of book clubs and programs that are listed and explained there. You can see staff reviews (actual photos of their shelf talkers) and read endorsements of reading by a number of well-known authors. It got a lot of everything.

kudos for things that caught John's eye
    ̶   I like their logo and the odd and different decorations on top of the tall shelves around the store
   –  the hardcovers displayed on the front of the cashwrap really catch your eye coming in the front door
   –  they give a nice amount of display space to staff recommendations (booksellers' taste on display)    

maybe change
   –  whoever does the staff hiring should try to find people who are much friendlier and personable.     
    ̶   lose the "If You Like This >>> You'll Probably Like This" display, it's so Amazon corporate,
    ̶   I dream of real wood fixtures (instead of plastic laminate everywhere) but that's me
    ̶   give the stores more individual personality and less of a chain look, it feels like a design that they     
       could order up and put in Any Space USA.

store hours   (as of this June 2015 review)
Monday-Saturday 10am - 9pm

Sunday 10am -



books inc inside The old doors from 4th Street location ... I loved them.


books incs 

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